Why I am creating a work of heart garden
In this personal blog post, the creator of the Work of Heart Garden, Clare Young, writes why she is knitting an incredible show garden installation at RHS Malvern Spring Festival 10th to 13th May 2018.
It was love at first sight when I met my second husband Ken for our first date in 2004. I’d been a single parent to four young children for many years, so it seemed like my luck was finally going to change.
As Ken lived in Cardiff and my children were all at school in Gloucester, we had a long-distance relationship and made it work.
In November 2013, our lives changed forever as Ken was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer at the age of only 47. We very quickly got in to a new routine of me travelling to Cardiff for every chemotherapy and hospital appointment and bringing Ken back to Gloucester to care for him whilst juggling work and 4 children. We did however, find one benefit to cancer- WE GOT MARRIED, in a quiet but beautiful ceremony.
After 20 relentless rounds of chemotherapy and five radiotherapies, Ken’s consultant decided that Ken would receive better treatment in England so his care was transferred to Cheltenham Oncology in February 2015.
This is when our lives were transformed by a referral to Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice. I was so very scared at the thought of taking Ken to the hospice for that very first appointment. Even now, when I pull on to the hospice drive I remember that moment because I was so so wrong. There was nothing to fear- we were greeted with smiles, warmth and positivity. It was at that appointment that I knew I would support Leckhampton Court for the rest of my life.
Ken initially attended the Day Hospice where he discovered a real talent for art. He painted some amazing pictures which I call my kenoirs, and still give me comfort when I look at them.
Ken spent the last three weeks of his life as an inpatient at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice. As soon as he was admitted, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Ken was with staff he trusted, and I was able to go back to being “just” his wife, not his carer. After all, he was now in the hands of the experts in palliative medicine.
Ken died on August 27th 2015, having received the very best care possible.
I have found life very difficult since his death as I have suffered from PTSD, anxiety and depression. I see a psychologist regularly, who has always tried to find ways I can help myself between appointments. She suggested I take up knitting as it has proven benefits for mental health wellbeing.
I could knit so picked up my needles and knitted Christmas angels and sold them at reception in the Inpatient Unit at LCH. I was 50 last year, so set myself a target to raise £500. One day, a friend casually asked if I had ever thought of yarn bombing a tree - I didn’t have a clue how to go about it, but went away, researched it and gathered a group of friends and hospice volunteers together and Yarn Bombed a tree at the hospice as a way of saying thank you to all the wonderful staff for the amazing care Ken received.
On my 50th birthday in April last year, I was with my friend Suzy who is Head Of Commercial for RHS Malvern. She loved the yarn bombing idea, asked if I may like to create something at the Spring Festival this year, and that’s how the seeds of my garden were planted.
I spoke to two of my close knitting friends, known as the Chief Knits and we are now knitting a 4m X 4m Show Garden at RHS Malvern Spring Festival on May 10th to 13th 2018.
I’ve been very clear from the start that I wanted to recreate the calm and tranquillity that I felt at the hospice through my garden. It’s a garden with a twist as its going to be a hospice bedroom, but a garden. So we have grass on the floor (all knitted obviously!) but wallpaper on the walls.
It will feature at least 30 pots of flowers with healing properties like lavender which have been created by the 300 plus knitters I have gathered together for this extraordinary project.
I was very keen that the garden should bring communities together and be an evolving project. I came up with the idea that we could ask people to knit some hearts which could then be purchased for a donation in memory of a loved one and hung from our garden.
The response to this part of the project has been incredible. In the three weeks since we had our press launch, I have already received over 900 hearts through the post from as far away as Missouri.
This project has become far bigger than I could ever have imagined, and in ways I didn’t expect. People are knitting a heart in memory of their loved ones and has almost become a bereaved to bereaved support project. It seems that by me being brave enough to admit that life has been tough, but trying to always look for positives in negatives it has allowed others to express their grief.
Last week, I had an email from Ian, a widower who had seen me on BBC Points West and instinctively knew that he wanted to donate his late wife, Jane’s wool stash to my garden. She was an amazing weaver and keen gardener so I have offered to make a pot of flowers for Ian using Jane’s wool. Giving away your partner’s possessions is very hard so I feel very privileged that he has trusted me with all her wool.
Finally, Ken would have been 50 in June, so I have set myself a very ambitious target of raising £50,000 in his memory in aid of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, through my Work of Heart Garden. Judging by the response we’ve had so far, I am determined to find a way to make that total happen and make my Ken proud that I’m trying my hardest to carry on life in a positive way without him
Many people are continuing to get in touch to ask how they can help support my Work of Heart Garden. There are many ways you can help either by knitting or crocheting a heart which can be displayed in the garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. The patterns and details on where to share them are on our website .
Please also come along and see the garden at the festival on 10th to 13th May and buy a heart to display in and around our knitted installation.
Or you can also sponsor the garden by making a donation on its garden online giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/workofheartgarden